C’est moi, Debra

About my work:

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan among lawyers, judges and housewives. As far as I knew, there was no other work to consider, though my inner cravings told me otherwise. I vividly remember the sensation of an early art class; I couldn’t have been more than four or five-years-old but I knew something was very exciting about that space: I loved the smell and feel of the ceramics studio my brother and I walked into and could barely wait for the second class when we’d be able to take our small, ill-formed sculptures out of the glass case. My brother was enthusiastic and reached in to grab his little horse, only to watch it shatter as it fell out of his tiny hands. The teacher was annoyed and yelled and I never went back, holding on only to the fragrance of wet clay as one would a broken heart.

I began to draw after that, in the margins of my academic pursuits. Over time, reams of lined paper, paper towels, and napkins fell victim to my pen and pencil; my first “gallery” piece was in a small restaurant in Vermont where the owners cut out the drawing I had done on a paper tablecloth, framed it and put it on their wall; it was also their first entry in what became their homegrown tablecloth gallery.

After decades of desperately looking, paying attention to, and trying to make sense of visual space, I felt I was beginning to get somewhere. In 2002, I moved from Vermont to Washington, DC where I enrolled in a Chinese language class; within days, something had shifted. “This,” I would say, holding up one of the first of many detailed, abstract tree drawings, “is my mind on Chinese.” A couple of classes at the Torpedo Factory gave me hope and friends and eventually, by the time I left my government job 11 years later, more people knew me as an artist than as a linguist.

I continue to work in pencil, though most of my current work is with pastels. Pastels suited me: they’re earthy, rich, lush and unforgiving, a truth that forces me to forgive myself instead. I also work with an iPad program called Art Studio; I enjoy the medium and it allows me to create wherever I am, including the Washington, DC metro system, the source of many of my portraits.

Two years ago, I became certified as a life coach; becoming a coach was transformational and I continue to love that work. The biggest transformation for me, though, was this: I wanted to be an artist when I was just this big, and now I am. Welcome to my take on this colorful, rich world.


There’s almost nothing I’d rather be doing than holding a pastel, pen, a stylus or a pencil, thinking without words, mustering the courage to begin, and then begin again. I believe I’ve spent my entire life just learning to look, to pay attention. I can’t imagine I will spend the rest of it doing much of anything else.


Feel free to comment, critique, suggest, ask about. All drawings can be custom printed on canvas to size.

For information on my other vocation –life and creativity coaching — visit www.debrablakecoaching.com Enjoy!


7 thoughts on “C’est moi, Debra

  1. Hi Debra,

    It’s SO nice to discover a fellow ipad art lover. I’ve only heard of two others in our area – other than the ones I’ve been teaching of late at the Yellow Barn in Bethesda. Your works are nice. My site is maureenoward.com if you’d like to see some of my things, both ipad & traditional. I’d love to meet you one of these days.

    • I LOVE your site! Let me know if you want any help at one of your workshops. How cool! I tried to subscribe but somehow it did not go through. Let’s stay in touch. Beautiful work, yours.

  2. I’m tickled that you like my stuff. It’s taken a lot of years and angst before I could force myself to get ‘out there’. Am in the midst of doing a 30×40 portrait of my dad for his 90th birthday — July 12th. That’s been diverting my attention in a major way, as time is getting short. I wonder what’s wrong with the blog’s subscription function. Will have to check on that when I get back to blogging. Yes, do let’s keep in touch.

  3. Really enjoyed looking at your iPad paintings. I worked with the developer of ArtStudio and I wrote the manual. Glad you are using it! I’ll be at The Torpedo Art Center in June and July painting in oils but I will also be painting on my iPad … I may be giving classes. Love to meet you in person

  4. Beautiful, Debra. I enjoyed our time together at the Beabove Leadership program. Your unique perspective added such richness to the fabric of the class. Viewing your gallery is reminding me to appreciate the beauty everywhere, even the Metro.

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